Car Wash Costs May Make You Think Twice

This is a guest post from the future Mrs Adam. As you will see, her writing style is quite different from mine and hopefully it will give you a break from my mundane babble. Hopefully, I can get her to post some more things in the future.

car wash @ new york cityWith summer time right around the corner, I felt it necessary to give some insight on the grand task of washing the car. Most of us lead very busy lives with hectic schedules, many places to go and people to see. This type of schedule often leads to slacking in certain areas like washing our vehicles. Since we spend a good penny on our automobiles and should want to keep them clean, most of us probably find ourselves saying, “Thank God for the car wash”! Right? After all, some of us do not want to go through the hassle of reeling out the hose and filling up the sudsy bucket to spend an hour scrubbing away on the car. Especially when in 5 quick minutes you can be through a car wash with a spick and span ride. I say, to everyone that is thinking they are very guilty of being sucked into the car wash all too often, wait a minute and at least listen to what I have to say. Keep in mind that I am in no means discrediting the local car wash because after all, it has been there for me when I needed it most.

As far as costs go, it should be very obvious to us that it is expensive to go to a car wash (I am mostly referring to the kind that has all the wishy-washy scrubbers that you drive through and has an air dry at the end). For instance, to go to the car wash you can pay anywhere from $5-$8 depending on the type of “wash” you get. The more expensive washes claim to wash extra areas and sometimes even include a clear coat rinse. We may never know if these items, worth more money, are truly worth it. Anyway, if you were to purchase one of these car washes twice a month for a year, and let’s say you purchase the most expensive one because you are easily persuaded by all the extras, it comes to a total cost of $208 dollars. $16 dollars a month may not seem like a lot, but I know I would rather have it in my wallet to use for other items like milk, eggs, and bread at the grocery store. Some of us would probably never use the car wash that frequently, but there are some out there that may even go as far as once a week to the car wash…which is $32 dollars a month (perhaps those of us more obsessed about having a nice looking ride all of the time). With things like rain and dirt appearing all too often, I would say it’s not worth going that often.

Let’s list some benefits of going to the car wash:

1) It’s a place to go for those who do not have a place to wash

2) It’s quick

3) It’s convenient for people who do not have patience or interest in washing their own car.

Some pitfalls to going to the car wash are:

1) It is expensive!

2) It does not clean all the nooks and crannies of your car. There are always spots that still need cleaned after paying at the car wash

3) You have no control over what is being used on your car (soap, scrubbers, etc)

4) The drying process. If you have gone to one of those car washes that offer the “blow dry” feature at the end, then you already know that it never really gets your car dry. What ends up happening is an $8 car wash that should have made your car look awesome leaves it looking mediocre because either dust clings to your wet car when driving away or you ended up with water spots all over your car.

Now let’s take a closer look at washing the car yourself. You can go out and purchase all the items needed to wash a car for under $20. Once these items are purchased, you are as good as gold for a while, perhaps months, as long as you have access to a hose and a place to wash. This could end up saving you a lot of cash in the long run. Other than saving money, there are many other benefits to washing the car yourself.

The benefits of washing your car yourself are:

1) It gets you good exercise! Getting out and scrubbing the car is a great way to burn calories

2) During the nicer times of year it is a nice way to get outside to get some fresh air and sun. Even if it’s hot outside, just give yourself a mist with the hose. It actually feels pretty good!

3) You will get a much more detailed wash. Washing your car by hand gives you the ability to clean everything properly down to removing those pesky bugs that get plastered on the front bumper in the summertime. As mentioned before, the car wash will never remove all the dirt and grime, especially bug guts!

4) You have total control over the products used to clean your car. It is important to use decent car wash soap as well as a soft scrubber. Avoid scrubbers loaded with dirt and grime because the small particles could scratch the paint on your car. Ever wonder what kind of build up is in the scrubbers at the car wash?

5) The drying process. At home you can use a shammy to properly dry your vehicle to avoid water spots from appearing on your newly cleaned car

6) Pride. It is always nice to take a step back and look at a job well done after washing the car. There is nothing more satisfying than a nice shiny car

The pitfalls to washing your own car are:

1) You hate to wash the car

2) You do not have a sufficient place to wash the car

Now, I know that there are some of you out there that have read this, but still insist on using the local car wash for most of your washes and you have your reasons. But hopefully some of you that have been falling into the car wash routine will see the benefits to washing yourself and try it more often. I personally LOVE washing my car. It is a good stress reliever, I feel like I am getting some exercise, and I know that since I am paying a lot of my money for my car, I should be the one taking care of it.

Here are some tips for washing the car:

Many people may not know this, but DISH SOAP is VERY BAD for the paint on your car. Avoid using it at all costs. You can purchase soap specifically made to wash the car at any auto store and places like Walmart, Target, Sears, etc. I use soap by Turtle Wax that claims to put a waxy finish on your car. It’s nice.

If you truly want to keep your car in good shape, then taking care of the finish is important. Waxing the vehicle is essential in keeping the finish like new. Wax blocks harmful things from eating away at the paint on your car. You should wax your car AT LEAST once a year, but I would suggest every 6 months especially right after winter when your paint finish has been exposed to things like salt and calcium from the roads.

Lastly, Tires. To make your car have a complete clean look, cleaning your tires is important. Nothing compliments a clean shiny car more than a set of black shiny tires. Use a spray on foam from brands like Armor All after you are finished washing to make the tires look slick.

Any suggestions from other car washers out there on products that work for you would be great!

After reading this article are you more inspired to wash the car yourself, or will you continue to use the car wash despite of costs?

Creative Commons License photo credit: pixel0908

8 thoughts on “Car Wash Costs May Make You Think Twice

  1. Yana

    I don’t like washing the car, and don’t like the car wash businesses much, either. My husband washes the car on occasion, but if he slacks, my favorite thing to do is find fundraiser car washes. They handwash and seem to do the best job.

  2. Jesse

    Sometimes the frugal in me and the green in me fight about things. The car wash is one of those. I have read a few places that washing your own car with the hose will take more water on average than taking the car to a car wash. So is it better to sacrifice the water or your money?

    I can never decide but here in Utah the cold weather usually decides for me and we take the car to the car wash.

    I did enjoy washing my car by hand when I lived in Cali. The hot sun, cold water and smooth car…what a nice summer day that was.

  3. Mrs. Adam

    @Jesse- You bring up an excellent point about conserving water. I did not think to mention that since my post was specifically targeted towards the cost issue, but conserving water could def go under pros of going to the car wash. It is very important to me to think of the environment and ways we often waste water. I must say though…much like you mentioned your days in Cali…there is something nice about a nice summer day and cleaning the car. I will probably stick to doing it by hand most often. Great comment!

  4. Mrs. Adam

    @Yana- Being that I am a school teacher and a fan of supporting local fundraisers I LOVE your idea of find a local car wash fundraiser to wash the car. That is a great way to get a nice wash, and avoid doing it yourself if it is something you do not enjoy doing. Plus you feel good knowing where money is going. Nice comment!

  5. Wain

    We dish out so much money for our cars, why not take the best care possible to keep them looking sharp. I personally hate to have to buy a car every three to five years but i also hate to have a car that looks ugly. So the least i can do is to keep that car looking it’s best. I do my own car wash once a week. Two cars, my wife’s and mine, hers is a 2009 mine to some people too old 1987 bimmer, but it looks better than some new ones out on the streets, actually not that difficult to keep a car looking it’s best, We love to look good, well our car is part of our wardrobe literally. By the way that car wash person, to him your car is not his highest priority so do you think his gonna do his best. I dough it.

  6. Scott

    Nothing gets a car cleaner then washing by hand but nothing scratches a car more then rubbing dirt and grime all over it. I prefer car washes so my paint keeps looking new and don’t have to spend extra money on buffing out the swirls and scratches. The way I see it is if your spending 30-40 thousand on a car what’s a couple hundred bucks a year to keep it looking good.

    1. Mike

      This is an old post but if someone comes across it a couple of things:

      Scott- Your swirl marks come FROM a car wash. Doing it yourself is the only way to prevent them. Wash from top down and use sheepskin wash mitt and microfiber towels to dry.

      Never heard of a $5-$8 wash except for the automatic gas station ones. If this is how you clean your car I would suggest not even washing your it and wait for rain. It typically just looks like a bad car wash. If you pay someone else to do it an automatic machine should never be a part of the process. Only a hand wash unless you like swirls. Even then you must trust that someone does drop a wash mitt or towel on the ground and then use it on your car. Expect $20-$30 for this wash or $60 a month.

      Shouldn’t use much water if done properly.

      Wash products cost a whole lot more than $20 to do it correctly and safely for paint. Expect to start at about $120 investment for proper soap, mitts, 2 buckets, microfiber towels and interior/exterior dressings. It will pay off and your car will look much better than it ever did.

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